This time around …

What is it about the women in these contact-lens-solution and shaving-cream commercials? They and their perfectly active-happy-bohemian-slapdash preening that leads to a salon-quality, beautiful, pouting, bohemian, front-door greeting. And they just laugh when something happens, like if the guy dropping in at their apartment watches too much TV on their couch instead of getting on with the date. There are never dozens of tiny dots of pancake batter splattered on the guy’s T-shirt from earlier that day when the stupid Braun mixer thing made it all fly up. No strange and lopsided hair from sleeping on the couch for 13 hours after writing for the first time in weeks. No old Amex statements on the coffee table reminding the guy of hotels he paid for and never stayed at because he didn’t remember to cancel reservations when plans and dates changed. There is no evidence of the guy cluttering up a large, well-furnished, and otherwise grown-up apartment with refrigerator snapshots, guitars in various stages of disrepair, random computer accessories, and Los-Angeles-rock-show-wristband mementos. It’s pretty obvious that these lens-solution and shaving-cream women solve whatever is wrong with men. But maybe I should stop daydreaming. Because the reality of the situation is this: I’m here right now, if only for today, to help you solve your problems with paper and paper-related products.

From: “Doug Shults”
To: “Dan Kennedy (McSweeney’s)”
Subject: paper-related question

What type of glue or binding should be used as adhesive for the spine of a book and the paper therein? I think I’ve seen books with string and staples and other binding devices, but what, in your opinion, is the most traditional—or may I say “classy” without evoking ridicule (doubt it, bring it)—type of binding device. In addition, what is the name of the machine that does the actual collation-book-binding-creation thing? Theoretically, and I know I’m running on now, but could you pretty much feed anything into those machines and have it book-bound?

D.J. Shults

Firstly, rest assured you will not evoke my ridicule. As a reminder: I am a 36-year-old male, and I write a paper-advice column on the Internet. Getting to your book-binding question, you will score more bookstore ass than the driver’s seat of a used ‘79 faded-maroon Volvo station wagon if you go with a lay-flat adhesive binding to an understated cloth-covered case. And use a sublime and stylish endpaper that subtly hints at having an almost British sense of humor (humour), undermining anything potentially self-important about undertaking the task of bookmaking. Side-sewing will be your temptation, but pass it up in favor of the 21st century’s quasi-punk anti-aesthetic of adhesive binding. I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the machine that binds books. I’m also not sure if you can feed anything into that machine and have it come out book-bound. I can, however, tell you that I used to stick the espresso-machine steam wand into a scoop of ice cream and just blast the hell out of it at the place I worked when I was 22. And then you eat the ice cream, and it’s hot and cold at the same time and really good. You can sell it to stoned friends for $5 and only put the usual $2 in the till, netting a personal profit of $3.

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From: “insert_card_fully”
Subject: Problem with paper
Date: July 17, 2004 2:32:34 PM EDT
To: “Dan Kennedy”

Dear Dan,

I need your advice on paper. I am a yearbook adviser, which means that I deal with a lot of paper. Do I want to go with a glossy or a matte finish? What weight would you suggest? Currently I’m using 80 lb. Also, can you think of any way that I can lose my assignment as yearbook adviser? I’ve been doing it for nine years now and I’m really tired of it. I’ve begged my principals but apparently they don’t want to give it to someone else. I really don’t want to screw up the entire book and risk losing my teaching job. I just want to have time to grade papers and read this column.

Thank you,
Elizabeth Fullerton
Lewisburg, Tennessee

At first, when you said you’ve been yearbook adviser for nine years, I thought I had finally met a student who mirrored my high-school career. And then I read the last line where you say you just need time to grade papers and read this column. So, you’re a teacher. Or … you’re a student who has been held back a lot, and you’re a genius, because you’ve cracked the code that confounded all of us that came before you and you’re actually grading your own papers. There’s no way those stiffs can hold you back this year. Well done. Grade away, sister! But getting to your questions, since you’re a teacher (wink) who needs to (ahem) produce a yearbook (brilliant!). I think you’re doing the right thing with the 80 lb stock, and I would say go with a gloss finish. I would even think about an upgrade to the heavier and slightly more formal 100 lb gloss. As long as it doesn’t feel too formal, like a sad and glossy memorial—as if the entire student body had died against security barricades at overbooked rock concerts, or in ski-club bus crashes where interstate-weary chartered drivers sneak Irish coffees behind the wheel, or under huge Indian-summer rip tides while visiting the coast in a chilling El Niño reminiscence.

As for getting out of your yearbook gig altogether, I can think of hundreds of ways you can lose it, Elizabeth. I’ve made a life out of “losing the yearbook assignment,” if you will. So-called innocent typos are good. The Prom King becomes the Porn King, and guess who’s got time to grade papers and read McSweeney’s? You might also inject political opinions into photo captions. Try this under a picture of your current student-body president: Our clearly Republican student-body president, [student’s name goes here], continues to fail us fiscally and morally, all the while stuttering his/her usual tired rhetoric to journalists from the school newspaper about how we are stronger and more united than ever before. Lastly, but arguably just as effective as anything I’ve suggested so far, secretly start your own rumors that will lead to your certain demise as yearbook adviser. Two suggestions:

1. If you look in the reflection on the window in the background of the photo on page 11, you can see a pot leaf and the word “Tit.”

2. The yearbook is produced with a chemical that converts kids to gays.

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Hopefully, I’ve helped a couple of folks here today. And come to think of it, I hope I’ve helped a couple of people over the course of all of these columns. Sometimes when a life— No, sometimes when our lives cross— Wait. OK. Fact: Women admit that they can sometimes find other women attractive. Jesus, am I drinking again? Truth is, I read and enjoyed everyone’s letters, even though, realistically, I could only ever use a fraction of them in the column. I would’ve never dreamed that the column would find such a large fan base. Particularly confounding were the large concentrations of readers in Brazil, Sweden, the Philippines, and Idaho. But it’s time to move on. To get focused on writing a second book. And so …

Isto é a última papel coluna
Den här er den sist papper kolonn.
Ito ay ang magtagal papel haligi.
This is the last paper column.